Horses are a commonly reared animal, generally kept for recreation or work. Horses are also generally reputed to be extremely susceptible to both physical and mental ailments, and untreated conditions may evolve to be life threatening. They have complex healthcare needs, and their caretakers should be experienced in identifying the symptoms for various common ailments horses can suffer from in order to get them the required healthcare quickly. This article will describe several of the most common ailments among horses and their systems, although it should be noted that this is not a substitute for expert medical advice, and you should always retain the services of a trained equine healthcare professional if you own or are the caretaker of horses.


Laminitis is a disease of the horse’s hooves which causes extreme pain and discomfort. It occurs due to the disruption of blood flow to the horse’s laminae which secures the coffin bone to the hoof wall. While various types of shoes such as kerckhaert horseshoes help protect the horse’s hooves from wear, laminitis is caused by high amounts of sugar and grains in the horse’s diet. Its symptoms include changes in stride, refusing to walk, trot, or run, frequent shifting of weight from one hoof to another, among other similar effects.


Colic is one of the deadliest diseases among domesticated horses, with around 10% having contracted it during its life. Colic itself is a symptom arising from various gastrointestinal conditions which causes abdominal pain and is often life threatening without surgical intervention. Colic is the leading cause of death among domesticated horses. The presence of the condition can be indicated by drastic changes in behaviour. Horses roll on the ground, lose their appetite, lie down more than usual and have various issues with their excreta. Colic is also not absolutely preventable, but the risk of contraction can be reduced by allowing the horse access to plenty of water and managing a healthy diet for the horse.


Equine influenza is another common disease among horses and is caused by a virus. It is also known as equine flu and is caused by two virus strains that infect the horse’s respiratory tract. It can be transmitted through the air when horse’s cough and is highly contagious. Horses may contract this disease when visiting locations where large amounts of horses from different areas gather such as horse shows, circuses etc. Its symptoms include loss of appetite, nasal discharge, and coughing.

In general, a horse’s health is indicated by its behaviours which allow trained individuals to recognise when something is amiss. It is usually advised to monitor horses’ faecal matter, eating habits and general behaviour. Most diseases have an impact on the horse’s demeanour and others may alter the consistency and amount of their food intake and excreta. Other metrics to keep an eye on include the horse’s temperature and pulse. Change in behaviour may also be a result of mental ailments a horse can phase such as increased stress, depression or loneliness.